A handsome Spanish mantilla style hair comb with sterling silver cresting
CONDITION: good vintage condition with expected wear. I prong slightly bent
SIZE: 4 ins h x 4¼ ins w (10 x 10.5 cm) decorative part 2 ins (5 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1900-1910
MATERIALS: sterling silver, celluloid faux tortoiseshell
This handsome comb is marked “sterling” on the back of the heading.
The basis of this ornament is a Spanish style comb made from a very dark variety of celluloid faux tortoiseshell. It has a tall wedge shaped heading, which is overlaid with a mounting of sterling silver. The design is a classic florwr and scroll one which displays Art Nouveau influence.
The usual practice on such combs would be to secure the metal mounting to the comb by means of fine rivets sunk into the base material. However a back view of this ornament shows how the metal has been secured by wrapping at around the edges of the base plate.
This type of ornament is often known as Spanish or mantilla comb because it resembles a smaller version of the traditional large shell ornaments worn by Spanish ladies with their native dress. In practice any comb which has a high upstanding heading or top which stands proud of the top of the head is often called a mantilla comb.
The collage picture includes similar examples taken from contemporary Victorian photographic sources and shows the fashionable hair dressing of the day.
High topped combs like this were extremely popular in the later Victorian era during the 1870s and 1880s. This was due to the debut of the opera Carmen, which promoted a fashion for Spanish style combs with extremely tall headings. Such combs were produced in a variety of materials from tortoiseshell and silver for the higher end of the market down to horn, celluloid and plated metals for the more popular end.
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